Work-based learning in action at University of California, Riverside Extension
When Dr. Nidhi Shah was completing her MBA in India in 1999, she had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working on real-world projects as part of her curriculum. This experience had a significant impact on her career, and she has been striving to provide the same opportunities for her own students ever since. In early 2021, when UCR University Extension's Director of International and Professional Programs, Lisa Miller, decided to partner with Riipen, Dr. Shah jumped at the chance to join the introductory Zoom call with her colleagues and the Riipen team. "As soon as they mentioned work-based learning, I knew this was exactly what I had been searching for all these years," she recalls. "I was thrilled to finally have found a way to give my students the same valuable experience that had made such a difference for me."
Fast forward to 2022. Nidhi had already run a few Riipen projects for her students when she connected with Tony Nguyen, COO of Practice Health Check, a Toronto-based boutique infection control consulting firm. Practice Health Check, with just over five years of operation, was entering a stage where they were ready to reassess the vision, mission and core values of their organization. Tony explained to Nidhi that his company had some internal resources to work on new onboarding materials but not nearly enough to create the detailed plan they were envisioning. In Tony, Nidhi saw an employer who could give her students the level of real - world feedback that she had found so valuable in her own studies in 1999.
Applying Riipen learnings to real-world jobs: Student success stories
Angela Palmer, one of Nidhi’s students, and also an education director at a tutoring company, was excited to work on Practice Health Check’s project but was a bit wary at first about the mission and vision statement focus. “I always thought of it as something companies did just because that’s what companies did - I didn’t see it as a valuable thing,” she says. “But hearing how Tony described his company and hearing from my classmates on how they used these statements to actually drive company decision making - then I really saw the value in it.” As the weeks went by, Angela even started to use her learnings at her job at the tutoring company.
“I actually started doing weekly shout outs to staff, sort of employee spotlights,” she shares. “With one of my employees I was able to share that I was starting to roll out and implement some of his suggestions to streamline processes at his jobsite, and hoping to roll that out in other locations as well. Since I began those shoutouts, I’ve had several of my employees write back to me and say it really gave them a boost. It’s also helped these employees who are spread out all over the place get to know each other a bit better.”
Similarly, Angela’s classmate Theresa Moser was excited to bring the emotional intelligence learnings from Tony’s project into her fulltime job managing a pharmacy. “I have a team of about 75 employees with many different personalities and they work together in a small physical space so it was a huge win for me to be able to share what I learned about emotional intelligence with them and our leadership team. I’m already seeing better retention as a result and more engagement - so it’s really been successful for my business.”
Tony was very impressed with the students in Nidhi’s class. “Working with the teams was phenomenal. We essentially saw them as employees or contributors to the organization.” Nidhi’s teaching style really stood out to him too. “Nidhi is so dedicated to her students and I thought it was really cool that she was open to adjusting the course deliverables to align with our priorities as an organization.” Tony is interested in students making progress in Practice Health Check Project and would virtually meet with student teams to share information regarding Practice Health Check operations and was always available to facilitate, support, and answer student questions.
Nidhi’s passion for incorporating work-based learning into her teachings has only increased through her collaboration with Tony - in fact the two have already agreed to partner on another project in 2023. “The students get to see a business operation perspective, the internal perspective of how a company operates - you don’t get that with a non-Riipen project,” Nidhi shares. “There’s only so much you can glean from reading about a company on the internet. Students get more of a connection with a company and a better insight with a Riipen project. Overall they do far better with a Riipen project vs a regular project.”
Although Practice Health Check is still in the early stages of implementing the students recommendations, Tony is thrilled that the company is now armed with a plan. “I don’t think we would’ve got to this work for sometime without the help of Nidhi and her class,” he says. “Their work has allowed us to expedite this project - we didn’t have the resources to have tackled it internally as soon as we were ultimately able to.”
As the world's largest online work-based learning marketplace, Riipen makes it easy for higher education institutions and industry partners to collaborate on flexible project-based experiential learning opportunities embedding real-life business challenges directly into the curriculum. To learn more about our innovative work-based learning platform and how working with Riipen can result in improved student engagement and student employability outcomes, click here.